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Topic Sentences, Exercises

This resource was written by Tony Cimasko.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on August 7, 2009 .


This resource explains how to compose topic sentences as discourse connectors.

Topic Sentences

Linking individual sentences together is important, but the words and phrases discussed above generally work only within a single paragraph.  In order to give your mulit-paragraph texts greater coherence, longer stretches of ideas need to be connected.  This is where topic sentences come in.

On the most basic level, topic sentences are the first sentence of a paragraph, representing the entirety of that paragraph, as in this example: 

A post-secondary education can have very positive effects on income and employment.  Numerous studies conducted in the United States over the past ten years have demonstrated that earnings for anyone with a post-secondary education are on average twenty percent higher than the earnings of those whose education stopped with a high school diploma.  Incomes are higher still for those with four-year degrees, and even higher at the master’s and doctoral levels.  Regardless of the post-secondary degree level, graduates are fifteen percent less likely to be laid off in difficult economic times.

When they are used to their fullest potential, topic sentences also become a bridge between the previous paragraph and the next one.  Assume that a paragraph about the cultural benefits of a post-secondary degree comes after the example paragraph above.  A topic sentence linking the new paragraph with the previous might go like this:

In addition to the economic benefits, a post-secondary education can provide very clear cultural benefits.  People with post-secondary degrees...

Discourse Connectors Exercise

Practice combining the following pairs of sentences with the words and phrases in part one.  When you are finished, check your work with another student or with a teacher.

1. Taking English classes from native speakers is not a guarantee of successful learning.  Many schools continue to hire unqualified native speakers only because of their language background.
2. Living in on-campus housing is an easy way to cut down on costs.  Most colleges and universities offer free utilities.
3. Construction on the new apartment complex will be finished in October.  Advertisements for tenants will be published in early November.
4. Donny’s biology grades were much higher than the grades he received in his computer science classes.  He officially changed his major to biology.
5. The final paper is not due for another three whole weeks.  The professor has given us the option of taking an additional three days beyond the deadline.
6. The supervisor wants the report done on the same day that the final exam is being administered.  Lihua will drink more Red Bull over the next few weeks.

For answers, check your work with another student or with a teacher.

In the following section you will find pairs of paragraph topics—the main ideas for paragraphs.  Come up with a topic sentence for each pair that links the two main ideas.  A topic sentence for the first pair is provided as an example.

Example:  Increasing sales to increase profits — Cutting costs to increase profits

  Once sales are increased to the maximum, a manager needs to cut costs to increase profits.

1. Providing supervision and guidance for new employees — Reviewing the performance of new employees
2. Managing a full-time college course schedule — Finding time for social activities
3. Talking to your children every day about their homework — Meeting with your children’s teachers every semester
4. Buying organic foods for better health — Finding ways to cut your grocery bills
5. Many immigrants to the US have found economic and social success — Many immigrants have encountered discrimination

Click here for exercise answers.

Suggested OWL Resources

Writing Transitions and Transitional Devices

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